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electionlineWeekly--March 31, 2016

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

Democracy Works launches the TurboVote Challenge
Challenge aims for 80 percent voter turnout by 2020

By M. Mindy Moretti

The year was 1888. Incumbent President Grover Cleveland (D) faced off against Benjamin Harrison (R), a former senator from Indiana.

On November 6, 79.3 percent of the U.S. voting age population went to the polls to make their choice for president. That was one the last times vote turnout in this country came even remotely close to reaching 80 percent.

In the last five presidential elections turnout has not topped 59 percent. It is even lower during Congressional elections with the 2014 election turnout hitting just 36.4 percent--the lowest turnout in 70 years.

Now, in partnership with private sector businesses and universities Democracy Works has launched the TurboVote Challenge -- an effort to get 80 percent voter turnout by 2020.

The challenge asks partners to commit to helping increase civic-social outreach, encouraging employees and customers to register to vote, ensure their registration information is updated, and to participate in local and national elections.

Some of the founding partners include: Starbucks, Target, Univision, Arizona State University and Westfield Corporation.

“When Democracy Works first started to notice the energy our corporate partners had to engage voters and we were talking about ways we could harness it, a 75 percent mark was bandied about,” explained Brandon Naylor, director of communications for Democracy Works. “Seth Flaxman even mentioned that to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, as a potential goal, to which Mr. Schultz replied ‘Why not make it 80 percent?’”

The organization wanted a goal that was ambitious and historic enough to challenge the status quo. Naylor said with the extraordinary enthusiasm they’ve seen from the TurboVote Challenge partners they think the 80 percent goal can serve to motivate everyone even more.

“Target has a long history of being an active citizen and a valued neighbor in the communities where we live and work. We believe engaged citizens generate a healthy democracy – one where we can create a brighter and healthier future for our guests, team members and communities.” Laysha Ward, executive vice president & chief corporate social responsibility officer for Target said in a release. “We know we can’t do it alone, and are pleased to join hands with other organizations and Democracy Works to help build greater voter engagement and a world where we all feel we have a voice.”

The program launched with 13 Challenge partners, but Naylor said they don’t have a goal for how many additional partner they will add.

“We are certainly open to having discussions with potential partners of all kinds,” Naylor said. “To accomplish the ambitious goal we've set for ourselves, we are going to need to reach as many voters as possible, which is precisely why we were so glad to partner with strong, innovative organizations and brands people interact with every day, like Starbucks and Univision.

While the Challenge partners are using their regular communications: social media, marketing lists, websites and more to share information about elections and voting with staff and customers, Democracy Works is providing those partner organizations with any resources they may need.

“Our staff are experienced in voter engagement and outreach, so we are more than happy to pass those skills along to our partners as they develop their own voter engagement plans,” Naylor said. “Along the way, we will also provide communications support and TurboVote implementation assistance, should they decide to use it.”

Of course, everyone would love to see 80 percent turnout, but are elections officials ready? Naylor said that’s why the two sides to Democracy Works’ work is so important.

“Democracy Works has always recognized that leveraging technology and innovation on both sides of that equation is going to be necessary to modernize elections,” Naylor said. “That's one of the reasons we've structured our work in the way we have. Bridging that gap has already paid dividends, and we'll continue working with election officials to help them meet the challenges of a growing and changing electorate.”

Oh, and for those wondering at home, in 1888 Cleveland won the popular vote with 48.6 percent of the vote, just more than 90,000 votes than Harrison. But Harrison won the Electoral College vote and became our 23rd president.